The PENTAGON will spend $1 billion to deploy additional ballistic missile interceptors along the Pacific Coast to counter the growing reach of North Koreas weapons,a decision accelerated by Pyongyangs recent belligerence and indications that Kim Jong-un,the North Korean leader,is resisting Chinas efforts to restrain him.
The new deployments,announced by Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel on Friday,will increase the number of ground-based interceptors in California and Alaska to 44 from 30 by 2017.
The missiles have a mixed record in testing,hitting dummy targets 50 per cent of the time,but officials said Fridays announcement was intended not merely to present a credible deterrence to the Norths limited inter-continental ballistic missile arsenal. They said it is also meant to show South Korea and Japan that the US is willing to commit resources to deter North and,at the same time,warn Beijing it must restrain its ally or face an expanding US military focus on Asia.
Theres been a quickening pace of provocations, said one senior administration official,describing actions and words from North Korea and its new leader,Kim. But the real accelerant was the fact that the North Koreans seemed more unmoored from their Chinese handlers than even we had feared.
Although American and South Korean intelligence officials doubt the North is close to being able to follow through on a nuclear strike,or that it would even try,given its almost certain destruction,analysts say the countrys aggressive behaviour is an important and worrying sign of changing calculations in the North.